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Exposure & Color, Part 1

  • The mantra of exposure and color - "Exposure Effects Color, Color does not Effect Exposure!" What does that mean? Make your exposure corrections first, then do your color corrections. That way you will not have to do them twice!

Exposure & Color, Part 1

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:06
  • Exposure and Color Overview 0:29
    • The Mantra & The Controls
    • Auto Exposure & Color Controls
    • Manual Exposure Controls
    • Color Controls
  • Adjustment Demonstration 1 3:20
    • Curves & Auto Color Correction Options
    • Brightness/Contrast
    • Levels
    • More On Curves
  • Adjustment Demonstration 2 13:26
    • Using Curves
  • Adjustment Demonstration 3 16:10
    • Using Curves
  • Lesson Summary 18:12

Transcription: Exposure & Color, Part 1

Hi everyone, Michael Brown here again, welcome back to's Adobe Photoshop CS6 course.0000

In this lesson and the next one, we're going to talk about one of the most important items that you're going to be doing to your image, that is exposure and color corrections, both auto and manual.0006

We're going to deal with auto exposure and color, manual exposure and manual color and how they relate to each other.0020

Here are the various controls, and the mantra of exposure and color which you should remember and apply--exposure affects color, color does not affect exposure.0029

Very simply, that means you do you exposure corrections first.0043

If you do color corrections and then exposure, you will affect the color and have to go back and do it again, but if you do exposure first, then the color, you only have to do each one, one time.0047

Now, the auto exposure color controls are auto tone, auto color, auto contrast; they have algorithms, mostly it's a contrast adjustment which affects both exposure and color simultaneously, each one uses different points of choice: the color uses dark and light colors, the auto tone uses a monochromatic black and white contrast, and the auto contrast uses brightest and darkest of the existing colors.0059

Auto brightness contrast is just an overall snap of the two--this one is new, and it's the default auto control for CS6.0095

Manual exposure controls, as I pointed out before, are brightness contrast, levels, curves and shadows and highlights.0106

Brightness contrast does everything, curves gives you a little more control with mid-tone contrast, curves can be set to control any portion of the exposure spectrum, and you can lock off any areas that you don't want to affect, a beautiful one.0115

Shadows and highlights does exactly that--it opens up the shadows and it brings down your highlights, a really nice control.0133

Under your color control, we have color balance, which is like a filter--you add or subtract color.0141

By using opposite colors, for example, blue is the opposite of yellow, so if you add blue you're removing yellow, so it's blue and yellow, red and green, cyan and magenta, it's just a filter.0148

Hue saturation adjusts the hue and saturation either overall of your image, or of specific color channels; red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan, so you can specifically target individual color channels.0162

Vibrance is like hue saturation, but it only deals with non-dominant colors--doesn't affect the very saturated colors, and it protects skin tones, so let's get started and take a look at an image.0179

Here is a well taken image that, if we look at the histogram for this image, it will show you the black is at the left, and the white is on the right, these are all of your color channels right in here--you can see that it extends all the way down, very little darks, that's just the deep shadow areas in the trees, and there's just a little bit of brights, that's the snow on the mountain--everything is distributed in the center which is exactly the way you would want it, so overall this is nice, we just like to bring it up a little bit, and we'd like to bring the color up a little bit.0195

We don't want to kill the whites, we have detail working in the mountains, so we don't want to kill that, and in the shadows and the near shadows are the trees, we don't want to kill that--and look down along the water line, we don't want to make that too black.0236

This is just a general well-done image, so let's start by demonstrating brightness and contrast.0252

We'll move the image over and zoom it up just a little bit...under the Image menu, adjust--before I do the brightness and contrast, sorry, we'll do the auto adjustments.0261

The three of them are right here but it's better to go to either levels or curves, either one of those adjustments has an auto and options button.0271

The options has four choices; the auto button here happens to be the enhance brightness and contrast so you don't even need to do it.0284

Tone, contrast and color are these three right here, so all four are under the options, and you can see right away, in the curves dialog box right here is the black point for your image--there's the histogram--up here is the white point, and this is all in between.0294

If there is no adjustment, it's just a line.0312

White, black, mid-tone gray just linearly right up here--as soon as we hit it with brightness and contrast, notice it bent the curve, it pulled down into the shadow areas and it pushed up the highlights, and notice it blew out the whites and it blocked up our shadows, and we've lost detail in the cliff face, so that one--notice the detail that came back in there, we don't like that one, so we'll move up one to dark and light colors.0317

And that's kind of nice, it adds a little tonality, a little warmth to the image, and we didn't lose much detail at all up in the mountains, and we didn't lose it here--it's not bad.0349

If we go to per channel contrast, the only difference between these two is in the coloration, and if you like the warm tone that's fine, if you want the more neutral color just a little snap per channel--I like this a little better, we can always add color later.0362

And then basic monochromatic burned it out--it just did black and white...look up here in the mountains, subtle, a little brighter...just a little bit...I prefer, of these four for this shot, the per channel contrast--we'll click OK, and we'll take a look at a before and after...there's where we were, and there's where we are--it pulled the color up a little bit and the exposure all in one auto move--a nice starting point, in fact, it's not that bad!0383

This particular image, you could actually just go into your color control, hue saturation which is the primary one or vibrance, and just jack up the saturation a little bit--notice in the mid-tones there, and we'll take that away and bring it back--notice how the water (let's go zoom it up) the water became more saturated, and so did the grass, but even then we could still use a little more, so we're going to deal with (let's take that away and go back to our manual exposure controls).0424

Image adjustments, brightness and contrast I will deal with very briefly.0465

It's all or nothing.0471

If you notice if we move down and we get detail up here and darkened down this, the shadow detail gets blown away or gets blocked up and if we come out to brighten it, notice in the mountains it kills all the detail in that, so that doesn't work very well.0475

Contrast is mid-tone contrast only--it's not killing the whites, I'm looking up in the mountain too badly, but it's still taking the brights making them brighter and the darks making them darker, overall, doesn't work very well.0491

I don't use this very often.0506

Levels is the next one...there's your histogram, just a little bit of shadow, a little bit of highlights, this spike right here is the white areas in the cliff side, not the whites up there, that's the real whites right there, give a little detail, that's that spike, but we have plenty of detail.0508

Now if you take it this is the black point, wherever you set it will become black and everything below that will also be black, so we already have black in the shadows--watch what happens to the dark greenery if I move the black point--notice, it's getting very, very dark because everything from here down that had detail doesn't, so we can't use that.0532

On the white side, if we go over it all, up in the mountains we lose all that detail at the top because everything to the right of the white point, which was this detail down in here and also details in the cliff, is now white (that didn't work).0554

Again, snapping the contrast does a little bit, but not too much, but what we can do, it's mid-tone, we can snap the contrast a little bit, and we can take the output levels and open them up a little bit, that preserves some of the detail on the black end and the white end, notice in the mountains, we're getting detail back in, and that was not too bad (undo, redo) but it made it overall a little dark--I don't tend to use levels either.0572

Curves is the one that works the best of all.0607

What you have here--that same black point, anything to the left of it is black so we're not going to move that, the white point--anything to the right is white, but you can come down from the top and reduce the white point slightly, so we get a little more detail there, or you can open up the shadows by going up, notice, so you have that control, so we're going to move it, see with the shadow detail is right there, we're going to move this up to match it, and we're bringing down just to that point where that detail is on the cliff.0611

It kind of flattened it out.0650

This is neutral gray--white, black, neutral gray--you click on the curves to add a point, and now you can click and drag that point around--either brighten or darken--or you can leave it to lock that spot.0652

We now want to protect the dark areas--the dark areas being this section and the curve, neutral gray, black...dark, real dark, so if I put a point right here on the histogram and don't move it, just leave it, and I do another one right in here and don't move that, I've locked off the deep shadows, remember this is bright, this is dark, this is neutral gray, that's dark shadow between those two points.0667

If you put another point somewhere...and you don't want it on there, just click and drag away and it will come off the curve, so we've blocked up the brights, we've protected those, we've blocked up the darks and protected those so now we can snap the contrast in the mid-tones by putting a point between neutral gray and shadow, and pulling down.0701

Notice how the mid-tones are snapping a little bit--they got a little darker but the shadows are still good, and we can open up just a little on the highlights without killing the details, and we've put that curve it there, we darken the mid-tone shadow areas a little bit, and we opened up just a little the brights, watch this.0731

Undo, redo, look in the mid-tone areas...undo it's flat, now you notice we have the contrast--we still have shadow detail, we have detail in the cliff face, we still have detail up here, it looks really good, there was our original and now we've got the exposure good.0761

All that's left from here with this image is to go and increase our color which we're going to talk about in the next lesson.0786

I'm going to end this lesson with one more demonstration of curves, and then we'll move on to more exposure with shadows and highlights and the color controls in our next lesson.0796

Here is (let me pull open one more image for curves--open recent, I think that's the one we had there, and this one...right here) here's a good demonstration of a high contrast image, and I'm going to demonstrate once again--I'll duplicate the background, and we're going to go to our curves.0810

Now, if this image--what we would like to do let's say is everything else looks fine; the brick detail exposure, but I'd like to open up my shadow area.0849

In other words, take the shadows and open them up but I don't want to affect anything else--remember, this is the black point, darker, white point, brighter, neutral gray, we'll leave that alone.0863

If I take and put a point between neutral gray and black which is shadow area, and I pull down or to the right, I make the shadows darker--watch...notice how all of the shadow areas got much darker.0877

If I open it up and go the other way, it gets brighter, but notice that the midpoint stays put, it's locked, so neutral gray stays neutral.0893

Now you notice the curve did bow, and that the brights came down a little bit.0904

If I put a point here and move it back up, we've pretty much locked everything from neutral gray up and all we can do is either darken the shadows or open them up, so if I open them up a little bit--notice that's where it starts--we open it up (and let me zoom it up a little bit) and remember that curve, just a reverse S difference...there's the dark shadows, we pulled up a little more--watch over here in the grate, see how that opens up and down in the shadows.0909

Now we pulled more shadow detail and did not affect the bricks at all, and did not affect the white which is in that sign because of the way we locked the curve down.0945

Let me just show you one more...let's pull this one...and this will show you one more time another shot at how you use curves.0960

I suggest using curves over either levels or...there's the finished product, here's the original shot.0974

Notice we're burned out in the sky, not too much detail, burned out in the rocks, but we've got good detail everywhere else.0981

So in this case, we just want to pull down the highs, not open up the lows.0992

So I'm going to go Image, Adjustment, curves...there's the box again, there's a nice distribution once again, a little more shadow detail--you notice all the shadowing that we have over in the hill--that's where that is.0998

So this time black is on the left, white is on the right, neutral gray in the middle (a locked neutral gray) and now, I'm going to lock the shadows.1014

So everything below neutral gray doesn't change--this is the light area, I want to pull down that so I'll put a point between neutral gray and bright white and just start pulling it down...there you go...and we'll undo that and redo that, undo it and I'm going to show you that once again so you understand quickly how we did it.1026

Neutral gray blocked it, we need to bring down the brights.1053

Lock the shadow areas and just put a point in and pull the whites down a little bit, notice how they dropped.1057

We could actually pull down that just for a little, and we locked in this case the shadows and worked the highlights--in the last image, we locked the highlights and worked the shadows.1065

That shows you how we deal with curves, and what we have gone over in this lesson so far is (let me put a layer at the top here) we've gone over auto tone, auto color, auto contrast and auto brightness, brightness and contrast, levels, and we've really worked on curves which is the most powerful exposure control, and we're going to wind up this lesson at this point with curves and come back in the next lesson, do a little more curves, more shadows and highlights, and the kind of color controls.1079

I'll see you there.1122